10 Reasons NOT to Become a Personal Trainer

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Thought about becoming at trainer? Why?

Seriously though….Why?

You’re good at working out, great. I’m great at flossing but I don’t want to teach others for money, or do I?

Okay, I promise to be serious this time. Now I’m not seeking purely to discourage you, I’m just cautioning you. There, now I sound like less of an asshole. On top of that, I’m going to add one positive to every negative to further my possible status as a swell guy.

Related: Why Your “Trendy” Gym Trainer Has It Wrong

I’ve been training for the past 5 years, so all the things you read will be based off my experience from training, my own research, and from talking to other trainers.

Anyway, how about I shut up and we just get to the top 10.

10 Reasons to Avoid Becoming a Personal Trainer

#10 – Gyms Treat You Like Their B*tch

Why? Because they can. Where else are you going to go where hundreds of potential customers are walking in the door, with sales people instantly trying to sell them to you. Not only that, they have all the gym equipment necessary to train your clients. So they’re definitely in the drivers seat in this dynamic.

Personal TrainerThey pay you as little as they want and the only way to get a raise is to train hundreds of hours and pay and study for more certs. Time and money you don’t have when working full time at a corporate gym.

Oh you have your own clients? Good for you. Where are you going to train them? At a park? Good luck with that, as if it wasn’t tough enough training clients on a hot field filled with dog shit, most parks are cracking down on trainers and either charging you or kicking you out. Not to mention you or them need to bring equipment, and the weather issues, and weird people making your clients uncomfortable,.

You can try to rent space from the gym, but typically they want to charge you an arm and a leg. $14-$16 a session usually. On top of wanting your clients to become members, which may be a turn off to your client and you’ll have to cover it.

To summarize, gyms take all your money, but without a gym, it’s Dark Souls hard to get clients and train them.

Positive: If you can actually find a space with a low overhead, you can take all the money. And if you start a business that’s looking for trainers and pay decent, plenty of great trainers will be seeking you to escape the corporate gym lifestyle.

#9 – Clients Want to Have Sex With You

For some, this is why they went into training. Some of you might have just read this and instantly signed up to test for their certification.

Now, I never knew this was a thing before going into training, but I should’ve. There’s always been a mentor/student sexual stigma in so many other things, so why wouldn’t it be prevalent in something wear people grunt, sweat, thrust, touch, and wear revealing tight clothing.

That being said, I’ve had clients quit on me because I wouldn’t date them, sometimes actually exclaiming it. I’ve known plenty of other trainers that have been through it as well. They’ve even grabbed my ass and many things I won’t even mention on this blog (maybe next time). It would sound like I’m bringing this onto myself, but I’m not, it just happens. Like I said, almost every trainer I know deals with this often.

I’ve had husbands and boyfriends of clients actually make my client quit out of jealousy, or even show up to watch me train to make sure there’s actually training going on.

Pro Tip: If a client tries to text you late at night, don’t reply till the next morning. Late night texts, no matter how fitness focused they are, will turn into sexual innuendo whether you want it to or not.

Positive: Now, if you’re single, and both you and your client are attracted to each other, and you work for yourself, and all the planets are aligned, then…sure. If you date them you can’t charge them, but if they come on to you and you turn them down they’re too embarrassed to train anyway. So you may as well if you’re on the fence. But if you do end up dating, don’t be surprised if they don’t trust you with your other clients.

Personal Trainer

#8 – It’s All About Sales

Sell, sell, sell. Cold approaching, cold calling, setting up displays and body fat tests, sales scripts, selling supplements, these are things you will be constantly forced to do when working in a gym. Your sales/training manager will ensure that, or they will be fired. Just like you’ll be fired if you don’t hit your quota.

You will have regular meetings going over your sales, so much in fact, you’ll question what your career choice really ended up being. You’ll also wonder why the hell this was never part of your certification or Kineseology curriculum. You’ll soon figure out if training is for you because if you can’t sell, you have no clients, and no career. You’ll also hate it even if you’re doing well if you don’t like sales.

Another question that may occur is if you’re going to work in sales this much, you might as well start selling things worth more money like computer software, stocks, or luxury cars, instead of training services that you’ll only get a small percentage of.

You also may be taught dirty tactics, like making really big pinches of body fat to make prospects feel bad and want to buy training more. Subtle fat shaming. The entire sales process was to show them how out of shape they are, and sell big contracts to them while they’re emotionally weak. Kind of how the funeral business works.

You may also have to sell products you don’t believe in, such as certain supplements, energy enhancers, testosterone boosters, hunger suppressants, cleansers, calorie counters, etc. The gym only paid me 10% commission so you have to sell a lot of it to actually make a decent amount of money.

Positive: Selling is life and I became a hell of salesmen by the end of this. I used this education when I went solo and was wildly successful closing sales. I wasn’t afraid to cold call, approach, and learned how to talk less and listen more.

#7 – You Will Become a Psychiatrist

Clients are often more interested in talking than working out, since most cases that’s what they’d rather be doing anyway. So if you’re not good at talking to people or at least faking interest, you may need to seek something more introverted.

Personal TrainerYou better be ready to hear some things you were never ready to hear, many clients can carry 100 lbs more baggage than they can actually lift. People going through divorces, hating how bad a shape they let themselves get into, hating they can’t control their eating, or mad they can’t lift what they wish they could. Crying, emotional breakdowns, etc. will happen on occasion so if you’ve got a Hank Hill type of personality you won’t last long.

I’m not against helping clients out or talking, but some almost seem to be avoiding the workout by talking the entire time, or thinking they got a 2 for 1 deal on a trainer/therapist combo.

Positive: The good thing is it makes you a better listener and empathizer, if you’re really good at it you’ll have more clients. People don’t want to work out with a silent trainer that’s just checking themselves out in the mirror the whole time or just talking about themselves. They want someone that will listen to their problems, or at least be fun and have a good chemistry with. So if you can do that, it’s definitely to your advantage.

#6 – It’s Very Hard to Make Money

Sorry to tell you. I actually went into this because I didn’t want to wait tables for a day job. I ended up being really good at it and accidentally launched a career and business. But for most, it’s a dream job. And for few, it’s a business you can actually build a retirement fund with.

Gyms don’t pay you much as I said earlier. 11-25% for the big gyms, with minimum wage added at some, bonus for making the sale, and any extra supplements you sell.

You get more if you have more experience and certs, but certs take time and money to get. Which you’ll have little of when being a full time trainer.

Positive: The good part is most quit, and if you’re really determined you can be successful. Though, it’s a lot like being an actor, singer, or entrepreneur. Think about Tom Hardy’s career VS some dude working at a dinner theatre. For some, very lucrative, but for others, no…just no.

#5 – Clients Will Rarely Listen to You

Which makes sense, I mean, how did they get where they are in the first place. The past often dictates the future. They may be motivated, but motivation is weak. It’s an emotion that dissipates quickly, especially when encountering temptations from friends, family, work, or hitting plateaus.

Positive: Maybe only 1 out of 10 or 20 will get amazing results, but when they do it means a lot.

Proving to you change should be respected, as it’s very rare to even happen.

Oh, and it’s a hell of a marketing tool for your business.

#4 – Competition

Anyone can be a trainer, and everyone usually is. How many do you know off hand? How many out of shape ones have you seen? Exactly, it’s that easy.

All you have to do is take a test and BOOM! (figured Mark might like that) and there you are. Not to mention in my state of Texas, you don’t legally have to be certified to be a trainer! Lots of people charging others to give bad and unsafe advice.

In fact, like I said before, it’s not often about being the best, it’s about the best marketing gimmick or sales tactic. Plus other trainers and gyms can try to steal your customers. My clients tell me all the time about other trainers messaging them on Facebook, or gyms calling them and trying to undercut my prices.

Positive: If you can succeed in this business, you can probably succeed in any business.

Personal Trainer

#3 – People Want Free Advice

Get ready for random Facebook messages all the time. Friends, family, strangers at the grocery store. They’ll never do it anyway, so don’t get too annoyed. The thing about free advice is it’s treated like such and hardly ever used.

Positive: People coming to you for advice makes you feel wise and respected. Sometimes this can turn into a future client as well.Which is a good reason to charge for it, they might actually follow through with it. Actually a much sweeter gig is that, just give advice and charge it, and never wake up before the sun is up again. Speaking of which…

#2 – Horrible Hours

5 am to 9 am, 11 am to 2 pm, 4 pm to 10 pm. Dream job still? Or day dreaming while doing the job because your’re tired and sleepy?

Friends want to hang out while you’re working, but you’re only free when your friends are at work. Don’t worry, you’ll usually be more focused on napping in your car than hanging out anyway.

Positive: You work as little or as much as you want and set your own schedule. Especially if you work for yourself. Plus, few jobs out there can match this one in letting you work such few hours but get paid so well. Of course, this is if the hours work out the way you want (rare), and if you’re successfully working for yourself (difficult). In any case, if you don’t need much sleep, money, or social time, this job is for you.

#1 – No Consistency

Think about it, you’re only paid when you’re training, so the following will impact your income.

Your client:

  • Leaves for summer vacation
  • Moves
  • Get’s pregnant (because you got her so lean her husband can’t keep his hands off)
  • Get’s injured (hopefully not because of you)
  • Loses their job
  • Get’s a jealous spouse

Not to mention when YOU’RE on vacation you’re not getting paid, because.. you only get paid when you work.

Positive: If you work for yourself, you can leave whenever you want as long as you’re okay with missing out on the money. You can possibly have a trainer cover for you, though most clients aren’t fond of that.

If you work for a corporate gym, they may allow for paid vacations, so it’s not all bad working under them.

Conclusion

Don’t mean to make you hate the job, just wanted to throw out some real life experience for those doing their due diligence. Know this going into it, and if you’re still serious, do it as a side job until you can make the leap.

Anyway, that’s all for now. Let me know your opinion and experience with this.

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Name: Steven Farmer

Bio: Steven Farmer is the head trainer and owner of Farmer Fitness. He is also a stand up comedian and film producer. He is currently a level 3 practitioner of Krav Maga, and competed in his first Triathlon this year.